Golisano Center for Special Needs

at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital

  • Center for Development, Behavior and Genetics
  • Inclusive Fitness and Adaptive Design Program
  • Family Behavior Analysis Program
  • Behavior Analysis Studies, MS Program
  • Dual-Diagnosis Inpatient Unit (in development)
  • Behavior Analysis Murine Lab
  • Diagnostic Evaluation and Treatment Services

“The parents of these kids fight for everything they have. They fight five times harder than other parents. They fight for insurance coverage, school placement…they shouldn’t have to fight for medical care.”

Henry S. Roane, PhD, BCBA-D
Family Behavior Analysis Program
Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital

“They shouldn’t have to fight for medical care.”

But they do. For example, if your pediatrician suspects that your child may have autism, there is a six-month wait for evaluation at Upstate’s Diagnostic Evaluation and Treatment Services. Worse, if your child has autism with severe behavior problems, the wait to be seen in Upstate’s Family Behavior Analysis Program is 100 kids long – or two to three years.

The new Golisano Center for Special Needs is poised to meet the challenges that children with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families face through enhanced clinical care, education, basic research, and initiatives to promote inclusion and community building. It will provide comprehensive, coordinated and scientifically based medical and behavioral care for children and adolescents.

Campaign Update

The Upstate Foundation made substantial progress toward its $6 million goal for the Golisano Center for Special Needs campaign, raising $2 million toward matching the lead gift from philanthropist Tom Golisano and bringing the campaign total to $5 million by year end.

The new Golisano Center for Special Needs will serve children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families through enhanced clinical care, education, research, and programs to promote inclusion and community building. The center is intended to increase capacity to serve more children in a timely way. 

When asked to serve as an honorary co-chair, NHL Vegas Golden Knights star and Baldwinsville native Alex Tuch enthusiastically said yes. Soon after, his Alex Tuch / AT9 Foundation made a $120,000 gift to the project, which aligns with his foundation’s mission to support children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The foundation name is a clever twist on Alex’s initials and NHL jersey number. 

Other milestones were reached as well, including:

  • Staff added – Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital named veteran special needs expert and Upstate leader Dr. Henry Roane as executive director of the center. Dr. Roane hired eight additional staff members in 2020 to the team, immediately increasing access for children with special needs and providing tangible proof that philanthropy can also foster job creation.
  • Physical space – Construction was one area that could continue even during the pandemic lockdown. Among the facility enhancements at the Madison-Irving Medical Center is a multi-sensory room with therapeutic tools that produce a calming effect and help diffuse agitation. A large, family-friendly feeding room will help children with severe feeding disorders progress toward well-balanced nutrition in a natural context, including eating at the table with family.
  • Speakers Bureau – Twelve families, all able to personally and compellingly attest to the need for the new center’s services, agreed to share their stories with schools, community groups and local businesses. 
  • Masters program – The first cohort of students in Upstate’s new masters’ level Behavior Analysis Studies program will graduate in May of 2021.

In the news

CNYCentral.com – April 2021 – New Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital center diagnoses autism faster for CNY families

LocalSyr.com – April 2021 – Golisano Center for Special Needs open at Upstate Medical University

Syracuse.com – April 2021 – Syracuse hospital speeds up care for kids with autism who used to have to wait 2 years

Upstate.edu – June 2021 – Syracuse Catholic schools raise more than $27,000 for Golisano Center for Special Needs


Family stories click here

Obstacles our children with I/DD and their families are facing

  • Children are waiting too long to receive an evaluation. 
  • Access to treatment services need to be improved. 
  • Children need access to more opportunities. 
  • Services are fragmented. 
  • Limited referral options hinder effective treatment. 

How the new center will help

Increased capacity to serve more children with I/DD. With the ability to recruit additional developmental health care professionals, the Center will increase the number of evaluations performed while decreasing the amount of time families need to wait for an appointment. Children will be linked into services earlier, greatly enhancing their health and life outcomes.

Co-location of services. Services will be centralized in what is currently called the Madison-Irving Medical Center at 475 Irving Avenue in Syracuse. 

Improved opportunities to participate in adaptive sports and inclusive recreation. With the hiring of a therapeutic recreational specialist, the Center will work directly with families, helping them to explore inclusive opportunities and work with them to develop individualized recreation plans based on their child’s needs and interests.

Creation of programs to foster early motor learning and sensory development. 

Promotion of understanding and inclusion.

Enhanced partnerships and collaborations.

Improved family assistance navigating health and educational systems. An educational advocate will work with children and families to help them understand the breadth of available services and help them connect to important resources.

Promotion of research on I/DD. Researchers, including those at Upstate Medical University, are making great strides in understanding the root genetic causes of disabling conditions and they are pioneering new ways to treat challenging behaviors. 

Advancement of professional education that will address critical workforce shortages. Upstate Medical University’s College of Health Professions has instituted a new master’s program in behavior analysis studies that will prepare professionals to enter the I/DD workforce.


Upstate Foundation Receives Gift of $3 Million from Tom Golisano to Establish Center for Special Needs

The Upstate Foundation announced today that it has received a gift of $3 million from Paychex founder and philanthropist Tom Golisano to establish a center for special needs at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.

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  • Gift Information
  • Gift Details
  • Personal Information

Gift Info


Gift Details

Personal Info